Hope in Troubling Times (and free resources for your home)
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The last three weeks have certainly been a roller coaster of concerns and emotions. I have close friends who are battling cancer and others who are out of work. Social media has sober warnings interspersed with pictures of beautiful landscapes and funny memes. The news brings concerns about full hospitals and the long term effects on our economy. Then I read that the fake news media is giving false information. In the midst of troubling news and conspiracy theories, friends on Facebook are posting warm fuzzy pictures of how their family life is being enriched. In the midst of this strife, I need my daily time in God’s word and my walks with God to keep me centered. When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay. The only constant is God and His Word, which are eternal and unchanging.
The Encouragement of the Scriptures
“Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) In my daily Bible reading I am completing the Pentateuch. Perhaps the children of Israel felt a little like we do when enduring the plagues and deprivations on one hand and the supernatural intervention of God on the other.
Many of my friends are just holding their breath thinking this will blow over and life will get back to normal. Others believe we will never get back to normal as we knew it. I can’t help but see parallels with what the Israelites must have felt like during the Exodus from Egypt. Instead of focusing on the people, I find hope and fresh courage looking at how God was so tangibly real.
God was indeed a “very present help in time of trouble.” He was present in the pillar of fire by day and the cloud by night. He was speaking to His people through Moses. He allowed Himself to be smitten on the rock to provide water. He delivered them from their enemies and gave them their daily bread. Their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet swell.
“Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey His commands. Yes, He humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-5 NLT)
God Almighty does not change. “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27) He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. For those of you who are struggling and wrestling with legitimate concerns during this pandemic, may I share a few stories of how God and His people helped me through difficult valleys.
Cast Your Burden
One of the first significant burdens I had to bear was the birth of our son with Down Syndrome. When John entered our life, I did not know what to do or where to turn. I did not know families who had a special child like this. I went into survival mode as we walked through multiple surgeries and trips to the hospital his first ten months. When we needed to make a change of employment and leave the church parsonage and ministry due to personal burn out, we bounced around to 7 different living situations in 14 months. I read and reread the book of Psalms for 2 years. I found comfort and solace there.
One morning I read Psalm 55:22, “Give your burdens to the LORD, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” I realized I had been trying to carry my burdens by myself. I was also afraid that if I put into words what I was feeling I would fall apart and have a breakdown. I was desperately trying to hold my life and grief together by myself. Now I sensed God was lovingly encouraging me to let Hm carry these burdens and care for me.
The next Saturday I set aside time to be alone. I knelt by my bed, wept, and poured out my heart to God. He met me. I began to heal. He was carrying the load. What peace. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)
Bear One Another’s Burdens
In 2012 I was faced with a new burden.Our family was changing the way we operated out business and I was an emotional mess. Our marriage was in jeopardy, our family was hurting, and I was drowning. I prayed, read Scripture, sang hymns and inspiring songs, met with a counselor, but while I was existing day-to-day, I was struggling. I sought to let God carry my burden, but I was trying to battle this out by myself.
One Sunday I hit rock bottom. I composed a long email describing my current situation and asking for help. I sent it out to 32 members of the body of Christ. I wasn’t sure how they would react, but they responded beautifully. Their prayers, their heartfelt concern, and their phone calls, made the difference. God met me two days after I reached out for support and once again I began to heal and grow. Joy returned. They shared my load and bore my burden with me. I was no longer alone.
Sharing and Caring
Perhaps you are not struggling yourself, but still under a cloud. You may be trying to put your finger on the source of your discomfort, but nothing surfaces. You may be bearing a burden you are not aware of. You are sharing and caring for what is invisible but real. As members of the church, the body of Christ, we are connected to one another. Even when we aren’t aware of what each member is facing, as a part of His body we feel each other’s grief, for “if one member suffers, all suffer together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) We are not alone.
As we pray for one another and fight for joy, we are lifting the load for each other. One of the ways I help myself and others, is by singing and praising God. Several hymns have been particularly meaningful in the past few weeks, such as Solid Rock and Great is Thy Faithfulness.
His oath His covenant His blood support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way, He then is ALL my hope and stay.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand! (I like to end this song on Christ instead of sand!)
Whether you are carrying a load of anxiety yourself, bearing other friend’s burdens, or feeling the effects of the suffering of others, let’s lean on Jesus, our Rock. He is the Ultimate Burden Bearer, who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (Isaiah 53:4) We have a unique privilege to work side-by-side with the living God, fulfilling the law of Christ as we “bear one another’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2)
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)
Lots of Free Resources
A Workshop on Activities for Fathers and Kidz (.MP3 file)
If your family is setting aside special times to study God’s Word together.
Just for Fun, Superdad is a short video produced by a homeschooler.
For those who are seeking new ways to communicate as families.
A podcast about the power and simplicity of sharing your story with one another.
Here is a complete Index of 230 free podcasts.